Six Ways to Prepare for The Future of Work [Leadership]

Originally published by CEB (Gartner) and curated by Closer Spot.

Current trends in business, society, technology and information are changing where, when, why, and with whom employees will work over the next decade. In 2027, human beings will still be at the center of work, even as intelligent software and smart machines become co-workers.
As technology evolves, so too does the workplace, as are the methods employees use to complete various tasks. Chief human resources officers (CHROs) should consider six ways to prepare for how the workplace is changing.

Six Ways to Prepare for the Future of Work

  1. Elimination of middle management: By 2027, work will depend on ensembles of autonomous and high-performing teams fulfilling crucial outcomes – a work philosophy called “We Working.” This philosophy is about deliberately designing small and flexible teams that dynamically resize and reform based on the scope and scale of the project. It will become the de facto organizational operating model replacing the traditional idea of teams and teamwork.
    Along with the autonomy of “We Working ensembles,” the rise of algorithmic management challenges expectations about what human managers can do to assemble teams and enable them to perform effectively in 2027. Algorithms will displace middle managers whose jobs revolve around collecting data, supervising actions and ensuring compliance.
  2. Constant upskilling: The digital economy will demand new ideas and companies will require employees who apply creativity, critical thinking and constant upskilling to solve complex problems.
    By 2027, more than two out of three jobs will likely be non-routine, which is defined as cognitive work that requires thinking rather than doing. For example, straight coding will be largely automated by 2027 and as artificial intelligence (AI) products (re)design themselves, AI engineers will have to move onto other projects.
    Recruiters will need to raise their game to find candidates for non-routine, cognitive jobs. This kind of work requires postgraduate education, training beyond high school and consistent upskilling. Heads of HR will have to champion lifelong learning and experiment with non-traditional channels  such as boot camps, consumerized learning, and hackathons to anticipate how people will learn in 2027.
  3. Work choices will blur boundaries between people: Digital business, built on vast networks, distributes work across communities of people and across businesses globally. In 2027, the allure of freelancing will intensify as more people work remotely and travel with their personal workspaces. There will be tension as work traverses borders, as security concerns surface and as ‘We Working’ creates teams of remote workers with customized work options.
    In this kind of system where colleagues may not necessarily know each other, more and more people will choose to be “microtaskers,” fulfilling small and specific assignments through talent and marketplace platforms, similar to Amazon Mechanical Turk or TaskRabbit today.
    CHROs need to blend technology and information to build a hybrid workplace — physical and virtual — that embraces work styles of all people, not just those who are permanently employed or who have high digital dexterity.
  4. Smart machines will be our co-workers: Smart machines are becoming more intelligent and more ubiquitous, and by 2027 companies will soon distribute work across AI software, intelligent software and apps. Employees will develop personal toolkits of AI software and devices using cloud communities, open applications and personal virtual assistants. This kind of extreme digital dexterity will be the key to how people work in 2027.
    Smart companies will want to prepare their employees for what’s coming by experimenting with AI to see how it can be applied to daily activities, enhance complex problem solving or free up time for both. High performing employees must be challenged to create and share AI tools or personalized portfolios of apps, tools and smart technology so that they can lead the way towards digital dexterity.
  5. Employees work for purpose, not just money: In 2027, people will be more likely to look for work that challenges them, colleagues that they find stimulating, and a job that gives them a sense of purpose. According to the National Society of High School Scholars, almost six in 10 high school students now spend their time volunteering in areas such as education, health, the environment, and other social causes (pdf). This commitment will not go away in the future.
    Businesses will need to offer more than a good salary to attract good candidates; they’ll need to offer employees an opportunity to make a meaningful impact through work. HR should demonstrate the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and other initiatives by encouraging employees to come forward with personal stories, experiences, and successes in various social causes.
  6. Work-life balance reveals a darker side: Because more employees will work independently or in remote locations, they’ll take on more work assignments, to a point where they will feel as if they are working 24/7. As a result, companies will likely employ technology to assess when people have worked too much and when they need to recharge by monitoring their biorhythms, nutritional requirements, and exercise needs.
    The lack of privacy will also become a problem in 2027 as the personal data, digital reputations, and habits of people become a prerequisite for employment. One way companies can prepare for this is to create scenarios for employees in which the work-life balance swings back and forth to suit work distribution and an employee’s progression through different stages of life.